SIOUX FALLS (AP) - A new study documents a loss of 1.3 million acres of grassland over a five-year period in the Western Corn Belt - a rate not seen since the 1920s and 1930s.
The research by Christopher Wright and Michael Wimberly of the Geographic Information Science Center of Excellence at South Dakota State University said a recent doubling in commodity prices has created incentives for landowners in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa to convert grassland to corn
native prairie,'' Lindstrom said.
The conservation organization is supporting the Protect Our Prairies Act, a U.S. House bill introduced last week by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Tim Walz, D-Minn.
The bill would conserve native grasslands by reducing crop insurance for the first four years on newly broken native sod or grasslands.
Ducks Unlimited also would like federal crop insurance subsidies based on the productivity of the land versus incentivizing wetland drainage and habitat destruction.
In their study, the South Dakota State researchers found some differing trends when looking at state-level data.
In the Dakotas and Minnesota, grassland conversion was concentrated on relatively high-quality land, suggesting that land owners are seeking higher rates of return by moving from livestock ranching to growing corn and soybean.
In Minnesota, the researchers found that much of the grassland conversion was on lands with excessive wetness, pointing to a likely increase in the use of man-made drainage systems.
Grassland conversion in Iowa was concentrated on less suitable land, likely reflecting a relative lack of higher quality land available for growing more corn and soybeans. The change in Nebraska focused on lands highly unsuited to crop production, suggesting an increase in irrigation in southwest Nebraska.